Management Research & Education


Expert Center on Competitiveness and International Trade

Competitiveness studies

The publication of Michael Porter’s The Competitive Advantage of Nations in the 1990s has spurred the interest of politicians and policy makers in the theme of competitiveness. Even though Porter’s studies focus on the competitiveness of industries in countries, part of the debate relates on national competitiveness. Reports on competitiveness as published by World Economic Forum and IMD Lausanne are widely used to monitor the ranking of nations. Still, competitiveness is hard to define, and to some a contestable concept when applied to nation states.

Paul Krugman, author of an article in which he described the stance of politicians toward competitiveness as a dangerous obsession, contributed to defining competitiveness as the ability of locations to create welfare. The term competitiveness may be misleading, since Krugman explicitly recognizes that increased competitiveness of one country does not necessarily come at the expense of the competitiveness of other countries. In short: it’s not about the ranking!

Competitiveness then is about generating welfare. As welfare is an economic concept, many have pointed out the importance of well-being, and sustainability, and inclusive growth. But at the heart the converging view is that competitiveness is related to welfare. The next question then is, especially in an open and dynamic world, what are the sources of economic welfare? What determines the ability of locations to create welfare? Who are the key players: the government of the location, its enterprises, or the combination of both? And what are the kind of skills that indicate the ability to increase welfare? If Benioff’s quote that every country needs a Minister of the Future is valid, then what should be the role of this Minister? What would you do if you would be the Minister of the Future, in your country?

Backed up by our Doctoral Program on Competitiveness, StatMind and its partners are building theoretical and practical knowledge on the issue of competitiveness. The approach of this program is highly structured, in the sense that all research projects include a first  phase in which common methodologies are applied to a common data set, and a second phase in which the researchers decide on either macro-economic or micro-economic explanations for the success (or the lack of it) in selected industries and countries. However the structure by no means should act as a straitjacket: given the approach we do expect students to think outside the box and to gain a deep understanding of the determinants of welfare-enhancing capabilities of the industries under scrutiny.